Retired Racehorses Succeed after Adoption with TIP

The Thoroughbred Incentive Program seeks to celebrate retired racehorses—and their riders—in every way possible.


Did you know you can get rewarded for success with your retired racehorses? The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP) recognizes off-the-track Thoroughbreds—and their owners—for success in their second career.

Launched in 2012, TIP has seen a meteoric rise in both interest and participation. Created to encourage the retraining of retired racehorses in other disciplines upon completion of careers in racing or breeding, the TIP program isn’t just for show horses; it’s for Thoroughbreds used as recreational mounts and in non-competitive second careers, as well. The program also recognizes young riders, a Thoroughbred of the Year, and hosts a massive championship horse show every fall.

A portrait of a young girl with her horse
Crawford has been a TIP Youth Ambassador since 2017. She has competed her horse Get It In Ink in hunter/jumpers and First Level dressage. Photo by Laura Siegle

Huge Growth

To get an idea of the sharp rise in popularity of the TIP program, consider this: In 2012, 167 shows in the United States and Canada participated in the TIP program. In 2020, more than 1,400 horse shows will offer TIP awards, and there are 51,125 eligible Thoroughbreds participating in every imaginable discipline.

“My favorite part has to be reviewing the Thoroughbred of the Year applications each year,” says Kristin Werner, senior counsel for the Jockey Club and the designer of the TIP program. “Thoroughbreds excel as racehorses and sport horses, but many are also suited for a career involving equine-assisted therapy and activities, particularly for veterans. Reading about these incredible horses, many of which are on their third career, and the people they help and comfort on a daily basis, is an honor.”

A retired racehorse in its paddock
The 2019 Thoroughbred of the Year, Disruption (aka “Bruce”), works in an equine-assisted psychotherapy program at Second Chance Ranch. Photo courtesy Katie Merwick

The 2019 Thoroughbred of the Year recipient is owned by Katie Merwick of Second Chance Ranch (SCR) in Washington. Bruce, a retired racehorse whose Jockey Club name is Disruption, came to SCR in 2016 after his owner passed away.

“He now works in our equine-facilitated psychotherapy program, Leading With Horses,” says Merwick. “Bruce has the ability to adapt to a variety of environments. Whether it’s spending quiet time with a person coping with PTSD, entertaining children through an agility course, or lessoning with a beginner rider, Bruce knows exactly what to do.”
Merwick praises the TIP program for its recognition of Thoroughbreds as incredible athletes, both on and off the track.

“The concept of an incentive program for Thoroughbreds was long overdue, and I’m thrilled that it exists,” she says. “It has made a significant difference in putting value, recognition and awareness on how magnificent Thoroughbreds are!”

Learn more about Second Chance Ranch at

TIP Youth Ambassadors for Retired Racehorses

In 2016, the TIP Youth Ambassador Program was created to expand awareness of TIP and the versatility of the Thoroughbred, explains Werner. This prestigious designation is offered on an annual basis to young riders (18 and under) who own or lease a Thoroughbred and actively participate in TIP-sponsored shows, classes or award programs.

“A Youth Ambassador represents TIP and the Thoroughbred breed at his or her local barn, shows, competitions, or at any other activities he or she may participate in,”
Werner says.

Lottie Crawford owns and competes her retired racehorse Get It In Ink, whom she has loved for five years. Lottie shows Ink in First Level recognized dressage competitions, but she has also competed him in hunters and jumpers. She has been a TIP Youth Ambassador since 2017.

“It has been educational as well as very rewarding to work in my community to bring this program and the breed as a whole into the spotlight,” says Crawford of her time as an ambassador. “Since being selected, I have had communication with the other ambassadors, The Jockey Club liaisons, industry leaders and other Thoroughbred riders around the country. I really enjoy working with these people to establish game plans, brainstorm new ideas and travel for speaking engagements to help promote TIP and the breed.”

A retired racehorse in the show ring
Sarah Schwartz began participating in TIP classes in 2018 and started logging her performance record to be eligible for year-end awards. Photo by Winslow Photography

Crawford says she would definitely recommend the club to other kids.

“By working with The Jockey Club representatives, the other ambassadors, show management, Thoroughbred organizations and horse racing industry representatives in my area, I have learned so much about Ink and about the racing industry as a whole. The people I have met and the opportunities I have been provided with have given me an incredible foundation on which to build on my passion of showing the world the heart and unmatched work ethic of an off-track Thoroughbred.”

Performance Awards for Retired Racehorses

Based in Wisconsin, Sarah Schwartz started participating in the TIP classes in 2018, when her trainer began offering TIP awards at the show series she hosted. That same year, Schwartz began recording her competition record with her retired racehorses through TIP in order to be eligible for their year-end performance awards.

A young equestrian and her horse showing off their awards from a successful horse show
Lottie Crawford is a TIP Youth Ambassador who has won numerous TIP awards. She enjoys bringing the Thoroughbred breed into the spotlight. Photo Courtesy Lottie Crawford

Performance awards are self-reported, meaning riders must report their placings in each horse show themselves in order to be eligible for year-end awards.

“It’s not hard at all,” says Schwartz. “The biggest thing is to remember to save your show receipts, and make sure that the show secretary includes the number of entries on the receipt.”

This information is then provided to TIP and double-checked. Winners are then calculated in multiple categories, including by region and discipline.

“There are so many different awards offered in all levels and discipline of riding,” Schwartz explains. “There are born-in, state, region, adoption agency categories, and many more, so even if you aren’t top of your division, you could win another award. Many [people] don’t realize that all classes count as long as they’re reported correctly; it’s not just TIP classes that count for performance awards.”

Something for Everyone

In an effort to recognize even more retired racehorses in successful second careers, in 2016, the Thoroughbred Recreational Riding Incentive Program was added to the TIP roster for riders to track time on trails, endurance rides or other group rides, like hunter paces. (Riding in arenas, lessons, and show rings does not count.)

The huge TIP Championship Horse Show began in 2017; this event is held each September at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

For Thoroughbred owners, TIP programs and incentives are just the tip of the iceberg in celebration of the retired racehorse.

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This article about the TIP program for retired racehorses appeared in the October 2020 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!


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